Client Information Security Helping Organizations Protect Private Client Data

1Aug/120

Free WiFi – Not so Free Afterall

As our dependence on the Internet for our daily undertakings grew exponentially in scale and form, so did our exposure to online security threat. While more data get stored or transferred online as we go through our daily activities, online thieves have found and improved their ways of stealing sensitive information from their victims, compromising their safety and finances, frequently leading to huge losses.

Identity theft is probably among the most prevalent and among the most serious of cybercrimes to have ever surfaced the online world. While identity theft and data breach incidence have been on a downward trend, we can’t be complacent as online thieves are becoming more creative in their ways of stealing personal information from consumers. A report by CBS revealed that online thieves have found a new and convenient way to steal your information and hack your computer: free Wi-Fi.

It’s effective and convenient as many people would jump at the chance to get free Internet access. It’s everywhere. Hackers can set up a false Wi-Fi access point, name it “Free Public Wi-Fi” and wait for an unsuspecting user to access it. Once connected, the hacker can get a crack at the user’s computer without him/her knowing it. This is potentially dangerous as the hackers will now be able to trace social security numbers, passwords, account numbers and PINs typed in various online registration pages, even Google searches.

Hackers can do a lot with stolen information. They can transfer money to prepaid debit cards, even request for a tax refund on someone’s behalf. They will only need a social security number and birth date for them to accomplish this.

Given the simplicity of the process, it’s no surprise that this act of theft ballooned to an unimaginably massive scale in terms of money collected fraudulently. The New York Times revealed that the IRS had detected 940,000 fake returns for 2010, through which the thieves would have collected a whopping $6.5 billion. The agency further disclosed that an additional 1.5 million returns were missed, possibly amounting to $5.2 billion of fraudulent refunds.

The gravity of the offense and the serious danger it poses on potential victims call for a resolute and systematic way of countermeasure. After all, it is your integrity and personal freedom that’s at stake when your sensitive information falls on the hands (or laptops) of these thieves who may just be sitting right next to you and may also be sipping the same latte you’re enjoying.

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